by Terry Magness
It was a mature tree—a survivor—when the man bought his place nearly forty years ago. Somehow it had escaped the Dutch Elm disease that ravaged its way through the elm tree population in this country.
He knew the tree was special. He carefully removed clothesline stakes and nails that had been hammered into its trunk, tended its wounds, then carefully shaped and fertilized his beloved Elm. In his care for the tree, he became quite attached to it. The birds and squirrels loved to play in its branches. It was beautiful and provided refreshing shade in the summer.
The man built his home and landscaped, giving his tree a place of honor. Although surrounded on three sides by sidewalk and driveway, his elm continued to grow. Its mighty roots tunneled under these formidable barriers—lifting and breaking the slabs of concrete like crackers and slicing through the asphalt as if it were warm cheese. Its heightened boughs rested upon the roof of his house, bending the gutter and filling it with leaves. When the winds blew, limbs and branches fell, strewing his beautiful lawn and flower garden with debris.
The man saw the carnage his special tree had wrecked and was sad. He was torn by two choices: cut the tree down and repair the damage or allow the tree to continue to grow and pursue its devastating course.
As I thought about his situation, I received a personal revelation. I, just as the man’s prized tree, when left to my own devices can become a destructive force adversely affecting not only myself, but also those around me—even to generations.
When left unchecked and unattended by God’s laws and boundaries, we run headlong into God’s laws of nature governing this planet, namely, the second law of thermodynamics which establishes the concept of entropy. In other words, with a lack of order or predictability, comes a gradual decline into disorder. Left to themselves, everything, including people, will begin to degenerate and eventually come to ruin.
God the Father was faced with the same choices as the man with the unruly Elm tree. Israel, whom He has loved and treasured as His own since Abraham, became a wild tree—a prideful and rebellious people. Like many of us, they grew outside the parameters He had established for their wellbeing. They refused to listen to God’s wisdom and instructions. They chose instead their own path. God had to make the hard choice to cut them off from His protective care. His great desire was that the ensuing trials and heartaches they would suffer would prompt them to change direction. Just as when a prideful, rebellious son finds himself on a path of incalculable hardship and sorrow, true parental love will do whatever it takes to turn him around.
Our Father’s foremost concern is reconciliation and restoration. Likewise, we cannot afford to be afraid, but must bravely take firm but loving action where sin is involved. Yes, it can be a tough choice to make, but genuine love calls for selflessness that realizes the issue is not whether someone will become angry with us--maybe quit the church, avoid us at work, or perhaps think we are a mean mom. It is really not about us! With our children, this is the consideration: what sort of an adult am I raising? How am I helping to cultivate character in those around me? Am I encouraging growth in a positive direction in others?
Do we love enough to allow the people we care for to suffer the consequences of their choices, so they are given the opportunity of seeing their need for God? Do we love enough to set proper boundaries and parameters? Do we think in terms of what we will lose in the process, or do we consider instead what they can gain--what is truly best for those in our sphere of influence?
Tough love may seem harsh initially; but if done with the same purpose and compassion of Christ, it can yield the delicious fruit of righteousness. Yes, the old stump will die, but you can celebrate and rejoice because hope lies ahead—Jesus is the resurrection and life: "At least there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” --Job 14:7-9 NIV
God’s choice purpose for Israel was a change of heart in the people, so he could help them grow and could bless them: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his shade.” --Hosea 14:4-7 NIV
Now an ordained AG minister, Terry Magness was once a broken, wounded, angry, and abuse-hardened woman, until God’s redeeming love confronted, delivered, healed, and transformed her life. In 1995, Terry founded Grace Harbour Ministries, a not-for-profit, Biblically based teaching, prayer, and discipleship ministry to women. Through Biblical counseling, coaching, and mentoring, she helps soul-wounded women come to know God in a personal way, conquer sin, overcome life challenges, and live Spirit-empowered lives. Throughout her global ministry she has witnessed God’s captive-freeing power at work. Terry has authored two books--Ever Increasing Grace and Azadiah Reynolds: God’s Jamaica Man—and three booklets in her Pocket Scriptures series. She enjoys people, writing, photography, art, nature, and relaxing on the water while fishing with her quick-witted husband, Don, who keeps her laughing. Their amazing children and three priceless granddaughters remind them daily to be ever thankful for God’s wondrous blessings.
by Jill St. John
Make hay while the sun shines.
The early bird gets the worm.
Any job worth doing
is a job worth doing right.
I’m a farm girl, and my family had more sayings like that than ants at a picnic. The truths of those sayings continue to replay in my mind and shape my behavior. We raised sheep and grew alfalfa, wheat, corn, oats, barley, and soybeans. I learned to work hard and to love the outdoors. Because farming is an outdoor enterprise, weather plays a huge role in it. But even if the weather kept us out of the field, we were busy in the waiting. We would be in the barns and shops, making repairs and preparations for when we could go out into the field.
On our family farm, my dad grew alfalfa that made hay for the sheep. As he waited for the alfalfa to grow, he was preparing all of the equipment to be ready for the harvest.
It reminds me of James 5:7: "Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains." (NIV, emphasis added)
See how the farmer waits. I know firsthand how farmers wait. They wait for the frost of winter to give way to the warmth of spring. They wait for the ground to be pliable enough to sow the seed. They wait for the seed to germinate, sprout, root, and grow, developing the crop to be harvested. In the waiting, they are not sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They are not biding the time for the corn to be waist-high by the 4th of July. To see how a farmer waits is to see how a farmer is always working. Even in the waiting, they are always tending what they are growing and preparing for the harvest. They know the crop is growing, even if it does not look like it. They know the tractors and equipment will need to be ready to go. Farmers are active in the waiting.
In the field of ministry, we are often in the position of waiting and can take cues from this passage. Waiting like a farmer might be identifying an incredible young woman of God who needs time to develop and mature before she is ready for greater responsibility. Instead of waiting for her to mature and be ready, I can invite her to join me in what I am doing for Jesus. I do not have it all figured out, but over my years in ministry, God has taught me things that might be helpful to pass on to her; e.g., lessons I’ve learned the hard way, as well as books and podcasts that I find helpful for perspective and spiritual development.
Waiting like a farmer might be waiting for a loved one to surrender to Jesus. Instead of being frustrated and exasperated in waiting for them to come to Jesus, I can implement a strategic prayer plan. I pray in faith, trusting that God is doing a work even if I cannot see it. Here is a simple daily rhythm I use in praying for those I am waiting to come to Jesus:
For those I’m waiting to come to Jesus
Protection & Softness to God
TUESDAY: Timing of God
Their job & the Work of God
THURSDAY: Thirst for Jesus
That the Lord will put Godly people in their lives
SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Sometime Soon
They will be in church worshiping God
Let’s make the most of the time God gives us each day, even when we are in a waiting season. "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up or quit." (Galatians 6:9 The Message)
If my Dad had waited for the crops to be perfectly ripe before he fired up the tractor, he would not have been ready for the harvest. If he had waited to prepare the harvest equipment, he would have been late for the harvest and maybe missed it altogether.
See how the farmer waits; he is actively preparing for the harvest. May the Lord help us work while we are in the waiting, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be ready for a great harvest!
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 28 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City: 6 years as youth pastors, 22 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word – helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, gardening, laughing and hanging out with friends, her husband and two young adult kids and kids-in-law are the delights of her life!
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